She leaned over the white porcelain coffee mug and asked me, “So what is it like to have twins?” It’s a question I’ve heard a million times since finding out we were expecting TWO over four years ago. I never know exactly how to answer it. “I’ve never known anything different,” is true but is rarely a satisfactory reply.
It began with two heartbeats blinking on the black and white screen. Two tiny fetal poles, two placentas, and two embryonic sacs. A belly that expanded at twice the rate, causing most to assume that I was months further along than I was. Two lives to nurture, meaning I was twice as hungry and twice as worried. We quickly began to think in two’s. Two cribs, two coming-home-from-the-hospital pink gowns, two deliveries to consider, two of everything (except for the double stroller). The expenses doubled, but so did friends’ and family’s generosity. The gifts piled up and filled up the walls painted pale pink with brown and pink polka-dotted curtains handsewn by Gigi.
As I crossed the threshold into my third trimester at 25 weeks, twin pregnancy expanded to include the dreaded diagnosis of “early preterm labor,” to be treated with “strict bed rest.” One trip daily up and down our stairs; no getting out of the recliner that molded to the shape of my very pregnant body for anything except bathroom trips. The waiting and the waiting and the waiting, anxiously monitoring each movement and cramp and ache and pain. Is this it? Would they wait for another day? Another week? Another 10 weeks? They did. At thirty-five weeks, I pushed for two hours for my firstborn; and seven minutes for my second child. Lucia’s newborn cries were the background and motivation for Alethia’s delivery. A proud Daddy cradling two pink bundles of fresh baby. Surprisingly healthy, they were. Until they weren’t four days later. It was back to the hospital for both of them. When two newborns are being pushed, prodded, poked with needles and screaming in tiny terror, which room do you choose? Which one needs me more? Which one can I handle better? When I’m with one baby, I’m wondering how her sister is doing in the room next door because I can hear her screams and I want to be there but I can’t leave where I am. And then we are both told to wait outside the dual rooms as they do spinal taps, and tears are streaming down my face and the orderlies are bringing me tissues and candy and soda as vending machine offerings. As if anything could possibly help the mom overwhelmed with hormones and questions and emotions and fear. Times two. The undercurrent of feeling inadequate magnified twice over.
We make it; they get to share a room for the next five days as their weight and temperature stabilizes. Alethia is ready to be released before Lucia; but the pediatrician agrees to wait until both can leave together. For how could I possibly split time between hospital and home when both need their mama?
We bring them home (again). Sobered; relieved; and then the real work of parenting twins begins. I nurse Lucia for 45 minutes, and then she gets a bottle of formula to supplement. Nursing feels impossible, and she can’t quite get used to drinking from a bottle – plus there is the question of is she getting enough and how to know? I hand her to a waiting helper, my mom or Seth, and then it’s time to do it again with Alethia. One-and-a-half hours, and they’re both fed, swaddled, and sleeping. In barely an hour, the routine begins again. The days and nights roll on, one big blur of feeding and burping and swaddling and crying and a little bit of sleep between it all. We make it to one month, then two, and before we know it they’re six months old and smiling and cooing at one another and at us. It feels worth it, and it begins to feel easier. A year passes, and it’s a double birthday. One song and cake smash, and then the other one. We breathe a collective sigh of relief: we have brought two babies to their first birthday simultaneously!